Alum connects with community as Conductor Diversity Fellow at Buffalo Philharmonic

Fernanda Lastra was once a child in Argentina learning everything through music. Now the Penn State School of Music alumna serves as Conductor Diversity Fellow at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Lastra’s love for conducting was sparked at the age of 15 while singing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as a choir member. It was her first experience performing with an orchestra. “I remember the sound of the orchestra in my bones, the reverberations,” said Lastra, who grew up in Mar del Plata. “It was very touching to sing that piece and it was a revelation moment for me. I was so fascinated by the conductor’s role, and the rest is history.” After earning bachelor’s degrees in both orchestral and choral conducting at La Plata University in Argentina, Lastra headed to Penn State in 2016, where she earned a master’s degree in orchestral conducting. When deciding where to continue her education, Lastra said she was introduced to Penn State by a colleague of Gerardo Edelstein, professor of orchestral studies and conducting in the School of Music, who also happens to be from Argentina. “Penn State made a huge impression on me – especially the sound of the orchestra,” Lastra said. “Plus, Professor Edelstein was very welcoming, and I thought, ‘I want to work here, I want to work with him.’ He is extremely knowledgeable and an excellent conductor, and I wanted that experience. There was no doubt for me.” Appointed as Conductor Diversity Fellow at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) in September 2022, Lastra lives in Buffalo, New York, while simultaneously completing her dissertation for doctoral studies in orchestral conducting at the University of Iowa. During her two-year fellowship position at BPO, Lastra will serve as assistant conductor, cover conductor and main conductor for the family and kids’ series, and for music for youth concerts. In addition, during the 2023-24 BPO season, Lastra will conduct three Pops concerts. “I am the liaison between the organization and the community,” Lastra said. “I hope to make a positive impact in the Buffalo and western New York community through this role.” While earning her degrees, Lastra has led professional and youth orchestras as guest conductor in the United States, Argentina and Brazil. Being from Argentina, Lastra is a passionate advocate for Latin American composers and serves as a member of BPO’s diversity council. “A program I really loved to conduct was the one in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month in September last year, and I will conduct one this year as well,” Lastra said. “It was an opportunity for me to speak Spanish and to connect with the Spanish-speaking community.” Lastra credits her time at Penn State for opening doors and providing the important training that she uses today. The School of Music is full of “first-class faculty,” she said, specifically Edelstein, who has become an example for her. “Creating a positive impact in people’s lives through music is my mission,” Lastra said. “I believe in music as an agent of positive outcome. The power of music is unbelievable.” Written By: Mackenzie Daly

Schools and Departments: School of Music
Degrees: Master of Music